Today, I took a yoga class today at the studio I teach at. It was a full class and as we were about to begin one last student made her way in. She paused, yoga mat, handbag, and water bottle in hand. There was a good-sized space between two mats in front of me, and a student next to the space waved her over.
The woman didn’t budge.
When F., our teacher, spotted her he walked over and stood in the space, smiling and motioning her to settle here. She moved tentatively, her body stiff, and unrolled her mat, plopping her giant handbag and other belongings onto the floor beside it. She stood awkwardly on her mat, as though she didn’t know why she was here, and looked around suspiciously at the grey folding chairs that were surrounding everyone’s mats; F. had asked each student to take a chair for today’s practice. The room had lots of stuff in it.
Although I didn’t have a full view of this woman’s face (I could see her only from the side), I had the distinct feeling that she was not amenable to the chair situation, maybe downright pissed about it. She made a face and asked the student next to her a question, ostensibly about the chairs and when the student answered and pointed to the extra chairs at the side of room, she seemed to answer curtly. The other student’s eyes widened and she took a step back on her mat.
F. approached (let’s call her) grumpy pants, handing her a chair and the necessary props for the practice. She begrudgingly accepted them. I wondered why, in a room full of students, my energy had propelled toward the one person who had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I felt my heart rate quicken and that old, familiar sense of unease, of something not being right.
I breathed a little deeper as we reached our arms skyward. My gaze traveled through the window that was directly in my line of view, meeting the Hudson river. Hello water. I did my best not to notice when Grumpy P, in the middle of the pose, reached into her handbag and took her phone out. In her defense, she may have been turning it on silent.
As the class progressed, my focus moved away from my chair-hating friend and I didn’t think about her again. At the end of class, after a long Savasana (the resting pose) and a sweet serenade by F., we were all feeling pretty good. I had almost dozed off I was so relaxed. I glanced at Grumpy P and saw that she had lightened, her face visibly softer, and I’d wondered if I’d imagined the whole thing. Maybe she had not been in a bad mood after all.
Or maybe the yoga practice had worked its magic.
We all come to the mat feeling wretched some days. These are the days we most need our practice and the days it’s hardest to get there. I was reminded in that moment all over again of the profound healing potential of the practice.